Apple's purchase of PA Semi may yield not just API tweaks but real products.
Reportedly reliable sightings of Apple MacOS X-running tablet computers combines with production rumors suggesting a February 2010 launch window of a device powered by PA Semi processors to emphasize that Apple's cross-platform Cocoa frameworks offer Apple flexibility other vendors lack.
Apple's work during the Intel transition to move developers from processor-dependent coding and onto platform-independent frameworks places Apple in the enjoyable position of being able to nimbly migrate hardware across architectures without necessitating a revolution in software development. Software is the key to platform success. The ability to shift hardware architectures without disturbing the kind or quality of available software is so badass as a competitive advantage that it's hard to imagine trying to compete with Apple in hardware. Apple can sell the cheapest, best-performing hardware and customers won't know the difference except by the price and the performance.
For Dell (or HP, or Acer, or ...) to shift architectures, it first needs to replace its operating system with one that will support its new target platform – something in which it may get little help from its principal operating system vendor. Even were Dell to move to Linux – The Jaded Consumer assumes Linux will eventually reach a point that its UI will allow the majority of users to accept it as a principal operating system – the inability of applications written for Linux to readily move between platforms (it's possible, but requires careful platform-independent coding practices that might not be natural to x86 developers) prevents Dell from shipping any hardware it pleases. Moreover, Linux has no mechanism for delivering applications that sense at launch time what platform they're running on and behaving properly in response; one would apparently need platform-specific versions of applications.
Apple makes it look so easy ....
Assuming Apple delivers a slick notepad powered with low-energy PA Semi hardware, and offers kick-butt battery life at a reasonable price, Apple may make notepads a real market.